Resistance vs. Resilience

In our private lives, and in the organizations that we work in, sometimes big changes happen quickly. In 2020, we quickly learned many words and phrases that were previously unknown to most of us; social distancing, leveling the curve, and herd immunity, to name just a few. With the pace of change coming so quickly, it is helpful to examine a couple of more familiar words to consider their impact in the process of change.


Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, to spring back into shape, elasticity. When we look at the definition of resistance as the refusal to accept or comply with something, we can see a potential for conflict. It seems that those individuals who have the capacity to “spring back” often thrive through various changes in their world better than those who tend to refuse to accept them or get stuck in their old way of thinking.


In organizations, change is happening constantly. This is because the environment around the organization is ever-changing, requiring it to adapt or be left behind. Sears, Gateway, Blockbuster, and Blackberry…all were once household names, yet these companies were unable to adjust when the world around them changed. With greater degrees of resilience, they may have been able to survive and even thrive. 


If resilience is valuable, what is it? Dr. Kari O Grady, an expert on the psychology of individual, organizational, and societal level trauma says, resilience “is best understood as a set of processes rather than an attribute or outcome. Leaders cultivate resilience by learning about and enacting those processes in their personal lives and in the teams, organizations, communities, and nations they lead.”  That means that for individuals and organizations, resilience can be learned and employed by following specific processes.


So, what are those processes?
  • Renew your Thinking: Consider how you think about a change, which may not be the reality of the situation. Make sure you seek the facts about what is happening before you jump to conclusions and final judgments.
  • Focus on your Influence. When situations arise, we can all tend to start worrying. But, as James Redfield says, “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.” When you spend your time on what you can influence, it helps you stay focused on what is in your control, as opposed to all the things that are outside of it.
  • Be open to Learning. Openness is a path to growth and continual development. Research proves that our brains are flexible and elastic throughout our entire lives. Closing your mind and having preset judgments can be a path to rigidity and decay. We can choose to grow.
  • Develop a Community.  In nature, we see that there is strength in numbers. Fish in schools, buffalo in herds, and birds in flocks. The same concept is true for us. It’s easier to feel supported and nurtured if we surround ourselves with people who provide us with a sense of collaboration and support. A community can help guide you in positively applying your influence.
  • Focus on your Purpose. Having a greater purpose provides focus and clarity. It allows you to have a guide for making decisions and choices, rather than being challenged to make up your mind about every event that happens daily. Purposeful people are focused on the long term and larger goals and objectives which helps them overcome smaller, short term obstacles and barriers more effectively and with less stress.

The difference between resilience and resistance is a choice we can make. Choosing the resilient path gets you closer to the results, and success, you would like to achieve.

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